Utopia through Tragedy?
A plane is constantly losing altitude over the ocean. Some start praying. Others are frozen with fear. Some remain calm and also try to calm down their fellow passengers - "the pilots surely know what they are doing". Some are screaming or crying, hard to tell, something in between. Some are hugging each other and others are kissing. One is stealing an expensive smartphone. Some are texting their loved ones. A few are preparing to open the door and jump while others are just bracing for impact. A small group are trying to burst into the cockpit to check on the pilot and take control. The plane is the world. The fire is Covid, maybe 3 months from now. Who will you be? Who should you be? There is no easy answer.
Looking at the bright side...hard but try: if we were to add freedom of movement with (green means of transport, for all) to the current mix of no work and free allowances (in some advanced countries) we could finally attain Utopia! Technological advances mean that this 'utopian' mode could actually be sustained around the world if (big IF) there was political will, if the very few who would stand to lose would no longer have financial control over politicians and others who use fear, ignorance and prejudice to divide people.
I have recently reread a great article by Andy Beckett, written two years ago in the Guardian, which discusses 'Post-work: the radical idea of a world without jobs". Post-work looked like an idea whose time had come before the pandemic, the prospect may now scare some people. But work will be redefined, one way or the other, for better or for worse.
It is clear that there will be fierce resistance against the emergence of any new post-work society from both the status quo and the millions of poorly-paid workers and employees dependent on their lousy jobs for survival. It is imperative that we provide practical, viable, and alternative, green career and living paths to those workers and everyone else, so as to liberate them and us from the grip of exploiters. Nothing is preventing us from building the alternatives. 'Capitalism' does not need to be overthrown, as messianic theories suggest, it is gradually sidelined and replaced each time we manage to build attractive, functional, competitive and democratically controlled alternative modes and means of production. Think Wikipedia vs Britannica, Linux vs Microsoft, or a home-exchange/free homestay/couchsurfing vs a stay in a Luxury resort.
It is true however that we also need to play some defence, by building up a credible (and devolved so that it cannot be co-opted) popular opposition to big business and the conservative governments they help elect through funding, and for this we need to move beyond sectarian political parties which divide us towards real, direct democracy. Hopefully open-minded supporters and participants in progressive, green, libertarian and socialist movements and causes around the world will learn something from this latest crisis and commit to respecting the three basic elements that each current advocates: Ecology, Liberty and Social Justice. The 20th century experiments proved that we will either have all three, or we will have nothing. Imagine for a moment, a non-productivist, non-militarised, non-"revolution"(arms) exporting Soviet Union where the environment was fully respected, where people were free to speak, write, travel, elect their government and where all basic needs (Health, Education, Food, Housing, Security) were both of the highest quality and covered by the public sector for free. For such a system to be sustainable, exploitation of people and animals would have to be internalised as extremely immoral as theft in the minds of all citizens. The same way that the vast majority of people are not thieves not because they fear the police, but because they consider it unethical, those stealing livelihoods and natural resources should also be considered thieves. In short, we need a new, secular, humanist ethics for a new world. The old, soviet-style socialism failed - it fell without a single shot - because it was cruel, unfree and unloved.
Apart from work, we also need to redefine and reform the banking and energy sectors - how money and energy is produced, by whom and for whom. [Work in progress - please feel free to add comments]